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Full text of "My Country And My People"

322          MY   COUNTRY    AND    MY   PEOPLE

probably the most typical example of our taste. Being not
oily, it has a certain fairy-like "fugitive" quality about it. But
the most important principle is that it lends flavour to meat
(especially pork) cooked with it, and, on the other hand, it
receives the flavour of the pork itself. This is the second
principle, that of mixing of flavours. The whole culinary airt of
China depends on the art of mixture. While the Ch nese
recognize that many things, like fresh fish, must be cooked in
their own juice, in general they mix flavours a great deal more
than Western cooks do. No one, for instance, knows how
cabbage tastes until he has tasted it when properly cooked
with chicken, and the chicken flavour has gone into the cabbage
and the cabbage flavour has gone into the chicken. From this
principle of mixture, any number of fine and delicate combina-
tions can be developed. Celery, for instance, may be eaten
raw and alone, but when Chinese see, in a foreign dinner,
vegetables like spinach or carrots cooked separately and then
served on the same plate with pork or roast goose, they smile
at the barbarians.

The Chinese, whose sense of proportion is so wonderfully
acute in painting and architecture, seem to have completely
lost it in the matter of food, to which they give themselves
whole-heartedly when they seat themselves around a dinner-
table. Any big course, like the fat duck, coming after twelve or
thirteen other courses, should be a sufficient meal in itself for
any human being. This is due to a false standard of courtesy,
and to the fact that as course after course is served during
dinners, the people are supposed to be occupied in different
wine-games or contests of poetry during the intervals, which
naturally lengthens the time required and gives more time for
the stomach to assimilate the food. Most probably the relatively
lower efficiency of Chinese government officials is due directly
to the fact that all of them are subjected to an inhuman routine
of three or four dinners a night* One-fourth of their food goes
to nourish them and three-fourths to kill them. That accounts
for the prevalence of rich men's ailments, like diseases of the
liver and the kidneys, which are periodically announced in the
newspapers when these officials see fit to retire from the poli-
tical arena for reasons of convenience.